War is not a part-time job. The discomfort in life-threatening combat situations, disorienting sounds, toxic fumes, and abject terror create an alien environment that only operators and warriors can work within to destroy the enemies of this country. America would not be the strong nation we are today without these strong men and women who have placed their safety and health second to their duty. They do the job of fighting the enemies of this country, and do it quite well although when they come home as happened after Vietnam and less-so after Iraq, some Americans, mostly the ones who have never served and never lifted a finger for their unearned security, deride or deny them the respect and honor that they have successfully fought for. But they don’t really mind as the true warriors enjoy that they are not in a cold foxhole, a blazing hot armored vehicle or being shot at or shelled on a daily basis. Instead they focus on the simple pleasures of home and family.
One of those professional warriors is Dillard “Crazy Jay” Johnson who was the tip of the 3rd ID Spear across Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He spent two full tours in Iraq and was the recipient of a Silver Star, a Bronze Star as well as four purple hearts and then went back for half a decade as a civilian contractor. CJ was prompted to tell his story in a book entitled Carnivore with James Tarr. “Carnivore” was the name of his M3 Bradley scout track “Crazy Jay” commanded when he was a 19 Delta Scout for the C (Crazy Horse) troop, 3rd Squadron of the 7th Calvary (3-7 Cav). One of those stories was his sniper duel across the Tigris River in Salman Pak against a Serbian sniper who had already killed dozens of American and allied soldiers. To get a clear shot at the enemy sniper who had started shooting at friendly Public Order Battalion (POB) Iraqi soldiers, CJ and his spotter ran up to the roof of a multi-story building. Unfortunately CJ was spotted by the sniper who began placing shots closer and closer to CJ’s position. Crazy Jay had no choice but to keep scanning through his Bushnell Elite 4200 telescopic sight that topped the M-14 he was using. As hits of 7.62x54R ammo came closer and CJ knew the next could be the one that killed him, CJ spotted the bad guy at 852 meters. He squeezed the trigger again and again that ended the Serbian’s murderous career forever. CJ got an Army Commendation Medal for that action, but he knew that the payoff could just as easily been a 151 grain bullet in the eye.
Crazy Jay has discharged more 25mm, 7.62×51, 7.62×39, 5.56 and 9mm rounds in combat than most shooters discharge in a lifetime of civilian trigger-pulling. He likes the M4 and will use an AK, but only when little else is around but had stacks of them so when they ran out of ammo, he wouldn’t reload but dump it overboard and grab another! CJ knows that what does not kill you does not make you stronger, but knows firsthand that what does not kill you leaves you in pain for the rest of your life. He is battling a lifetime of combat and service related maladies including shrap-metal and bullet fragments peppered throughout his body, a bad back from being shot in a rear SAPI plate by an inept ally and cancer from the depleted Uranium rounds that he used to win the campaign and probably the war in Iraq.
Carnivore is a well-written and frank account of modern war at its best and funniest as well as its worst and most tragic. Dillard “CJ” Johnson discusses first-hand that waging war is a horrible activity that is performed primarily by post-adolescent boys supervised by slightly older non-coms and officers that learn and adjust as they go. Mistakes were common and he covers them like when CJ high-centered his Bradley on a canal embankment during a pitched battle that required him and his “wingman” to expose themselves to hitch up a tow under fire to get his track back on the road. He also covers some big boo-boos like when he detonating what was probably the largest tactical demo job in history. Following what he interpreted as standing orders to destroy enemy ordnance and materials, CJ blew up fifteen hundred 2,000 pound Iraqi Air Force bombs (equating to three million pounds of high explosive.) He was asked to not do that again as Carnivore was seen racing away from the resultant mile-high mushroom cloud as the allied command thought a nuke had gone off! He also discusses the performance of many weapons and gives insight that only someone who has “been there, done that” can validate with authority. It is a fascinating and well-written read filled with humor, facts and insight greater or equal than any other accounts of the Iraq war.
CJ is now running the “Big 3 East” near Daytona Beach with his cadre of an eclectic mix of veterans, writers and shooters as well as enjoying time with his wonderful wife Amy and kids.